Before I rant, this was our itinerary in a capsule:
Explore Galle and Unawatuna
- Galle cricket stadium – Free
- Unawatuna beach – Free
- Galle lighthouse – Free
- National maritime museum – 300 LKR
- Galle fort – Free
- Surf at Magalle – Around 2000 LKR for a lesson
- Visit Adam’s peak – Free
- Visit 98 acres for a spa – Updated rates on their website.
Day 3 and 4:
- Visit Gregory lake – 200 LKR
- Visit Macwoods tea plantation factory – Free
- Visit Horton plains – Around 2500 LKR plus you pay for the vehicle as well.
- Visit the tooth temple – 1000 LKR (Prices lower for SAARC tourists everywhere)
- Visit Millennium elephant foundation – 2000 LKR plus 200 for every plate of banana you want to feed.
- See The big Vihara Buddha statue. – Free
- Visit Seema Malaka temple – Free but they ask you to buy some blessed thread later inside. You can say no.
- Visit barefoot garden cafe
- Nation museum of Colombo – 600LKR
- Cinnamon gardens
- Bally’s Casino
The neighboring island has always been on my list of countries to visit. I had already formed pictures in my head based on the stories I heard from friends who have traveled to the pearl of Indian ocean. The most enthusiastic among them being my sister. She introduced us to beautiful words of Michael Ondaatje and the wonderful architecture of Geoffery Bawa.
Fortunately we had a long break in Oman and we immediately booked our tickets to Ceylon. Our flight was via Male(Maldives) and landed at Colombo. After a lot of planing we had finally decided on the route we would follow in Sri Lanka, thanks to the illustrious tourist maps you can find online.
There is a lot to see in Sri Lanka, so to narrow down to a route was difficult. Having only 6 days in hand we couldn’t cover the north tip. Our route was Colombo – Galle – Ella – Nuwarelliya – Kandy – Colombo.
Stick No Bills, Galle fort
Luna Terrace, Closenberg
Galle Cricket staidum
On landing at Colombo we immediately took a taxi to Galle. The journey is of two hours. Having landed there early morning, we managed to skip the traffic hours. Two hours went by fast, I believe I snoozed off. I hate flights, putting me on a flight is equal to putting me in prison. Alas they haven’t invented an equivalent fast alternative yet. Our stay at Galle was booked at the colonial Closenberg hotel with a sea facing view. They are also famous for their infinity pool adorned by frangipani trees and facing the Magalle beach. The next day early morning we set out to explore Galle fort. We decided to take the bus since the tuk-tuks were charging us a lot. The bus was convenient, quick and cheap. The people around were really helpful and guided us on which bus to take every single time. The bus stopped right next to the Galle cricket stadium. From there we walked through the old town of Galle. The streets were filled with antique stores, museums and stylish cafes. The Sri Lankans love Bollywood, traces of which are seen across art stores situated in Galle. Things to see in Galle include the Galle lighthouse, National maritime museum and Dutch mansion museum. On our way back we were lucky to catch a cricket game happening at the Galle cricket stadium. On our bus back, the lady sitting next to me told me about how Galle was affected during the tsunami. She said if it was not for the fort they would have been more damage. I gulped in sheer nervousness because I remember seeing the pictures of the tsunami waves back in 2004 and having sleepless nights. Later in the night we headed to Unawatuna. The entire stretch of the beach was filled with shacks serving lovely seafood made to your taste! Next day morning I had a quick surfing lesson at the Sunset juice bar and surf school.
Our next stop was Nuwar elliya. Going to Nuwar elliya was the real task in our route. Every research I did online suggested heading back to Colombo and going from there. To avoid that we decided to take a taxi to Nuwar elliya. It costed us a bit but since we were on time crunch we had no option. The car ride was almost 6 hours long. We made a stop at Ella for dinner. Ella seemed like a charming cosy village. Things to do in Ella include visiting the 98 acres resort and spa. Set in thatched-roof, hillside buildings on a lush 40-hectare tea estate in the Central Highlands, this upscale hotel is 9 km from Ravana Falls, an iconic waterfall mentioned in local myths, and 2 km from Ella train station. Also do visit the Adam’s peak while at Ella. The train ride from Ella to Nuwar elliya is known to be a magnificent train ride through the tea plantations. Alternatively you could also take a train from Nuwarelliya to Kandy for the same experience. While at the ninety eight acres resort, make sure the catch a Hamam bath with a splendid view.
Samabar deers, Horton plains
World’s end, Horton plains
Tea plantations, Nuwar Elliya
We reached Nuwar elliya around 10 in the night. By then almost every shop in the town had shut down. We stayed at a very British style guesthouse called The golf green. Nuwar elliya had a very cool climate, all the reasons for us to step out for a walk in the night. We finally found a restaurant serving Kottu roti (Sri Lankan specialty). Only when we stepped back into the hotel we realized the importance of that small heater in the room. When we woke up in the morning, we realized why the place was called Golf green. The backdoor of our hotel opened to a widespread golf course. Dewy green grass and fresh crisp air made our morning coffee at the backyard a memorable one. We then headed to explore the Macwoods museum and the Gregory lake. Macwoods is the first awarded tea factory in Sri Lanka. We got ourselves a factory tour and some tea tasting. They even had a Macwood sign on the plantation similar to the Hollywood one. The entire tour was free of cost. Later in the day we headed to Gregory lake. Gregory lake had plush green grass enclosing a lake. Its a nice spot to stretch those legs and have a picnic. We retired early to bed since we had to wake up at 4 am next morning to head to Horton plains.
I was told that you need to go early to Horton plains so that you can see the best view from the ‘World’s end’ at Horton plains. If you get there later in the day, the view would be obscured by thick clouds. We managed to get a tuk tuk driver who promised to arrive early morning to take us there. Three layers of clothing and I was still frozen to the marrow in the tuk tuk. Even at 5 in the morning there was a huge line at the entry gate for the entry pass. I was lucky I had a friend to sacrifice to the cold temperature and do the job of standing in the line while I warmed the tuk tuk seat. Past this, you are first greeted by theSambar deers. The sight of them is magical. They reminded me of the stags that appear as a patronus charm in Harry Potter. You might want to blink your eyes twice to check if they are for real. Feel free to give them some treats, they are sugar for all that love.
At the starting point of the trek you have to go through a security check. You are not allowed to carry any plastic or food from that point onward. I personally loved this because once you enter the plains you realize how well preserved the place is. The entire trek was for about 4 hours. The trail leads you through thick cloud forests, World’s end (from here you get a jaw dropping view) and finally the Baker’s fall. Needless to say you’ll meet a lot of friends of the forest throughout.
Tooth temple, Kandy
City view of Kandy city
Kandy city hostel
Lovely decor and passion fruit ice cream at The Empire Cafe
Srilankan food at Cafe Aroma inn
After our trek, we collected our bags from the hotel and went to the bus station to catch a local bus to Kandy. Its a downhill journey so be prepared for a rocky ride and some beautiful view. We reached Kandy by afternoon and headed to our hostel. We stayed at the lovely Kandy city hostel. This is one of the most coolest hostels where we met lot of lovely folks with interesting stories to tell. You can even doodle on the walls if you think your art is better than whats on the wall already or grab beers from the fridge. Kandy is home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha which symbolizes a 4th-century tradition that used to be linked to royalty since the protector of the relic was seen fit to rule the land. You need to pay to enter the temple (weird) . Once inside the temple you can witness a live ceremony. Although the atmosphere inside is really pleasant, it is also very crowded. If you blink, you’ll miss seeing the tooth.
The tooth is on the crown. The line is huge so going back to see it again would be a task. We also caught a glimpse of the entire Kandy city from the mountain point our tuk tuk guy took us to. Also don’t miss the huge Vihara Buddha statue. We also stopped at a vintage car exhibition (you’ll see a lot of vintage cars throughout Sri Lanka) and an elephant sanctuary. They told us to skip the Pinnawala sanctuary since they don’t treat the elephants well there.
By evening we set out to Colombo, again in a local bus.
Banofee pie at Barefoot Garden cafe
Seema Malaka temple at Beira lake
Seema Malaka temple, Colombo
Nationla Museum, Colombo
We were exhausted by the time we reached Colombo, so we headed straight to our hotel and collapsed for a while. We headed out for dinner and decided to stroll around the city since we didn’t have much on our itinerary. You’ll find a lot of Japanese restaurants amidst the tall buildings in Colombo city. After dinner we randomly picked a direction and walked towards it. Its amazing how the city surprises you. We reached the national museum building, opposite which was a lovely Central Park called Viharama park. Colombo was slightly more expensive than the other cities. Colombo also has some interesting casinos if that interests you. Amidst the restaurants we ate at I would suggest everyone to visit barefoot cafe, a lovely art cafe situated on Galle road. For some nice souvenirs you can also visit Laksala for the same. The next morning we headed back to Muscat from Colombo.
Sri Lanka was a whole different experience because each city was so different from each other. Colombo was a modern city with colonial architecture romancing modern architecture, Galle was a pretty old city with beautiful beaches, Nuwar elliya was a country hill station with greenery everywhere and Kandy was a pleasant city with Buddhist chants resonating the air.
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